Soot contains high levels of toxic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Extraction of PAHs from soot for quantitative analysis is difficult because the compounds are extremely tightly bound to the sorbent matrix. This study was designed to investigate the effect of solvent type on PAH extraction yield, to identify the most optimal solvent for PAH extraction from soot, and to gain insight into the mechanism of PAH sorption to soot in aquatic environments. To that end, different types of soot as well as coal, charcoal, and sediments containing soot-like material were extracted with seven organic solvents. Large differences in extraction recoveries were observed among solvents, with relative values as low as 16s compared to the best extracting solvent. These differences were much larger for soot than for sediments. Dichloromethane, which to date is the most widely used solvent for soot and sediment extractions, appeared to be the overall worst extractant, whereas toluene/methanol (1:6) gave the best results. Based on extraction yields and solvent properties, extraction of PAHs from soot was explained by a two-step mechanism involving swelling of the sorbent matrix and subsequent displacement of sorbates by solvent molecules. Due to the low displacement capacity of water, desorption of PAHs from soot in the aquatic environment will be strongly limited. Moreover, a certain fraction of the total PAH mass on soot is suggested to be physically entrapped, making it unavailable for partitioning to the aqueous phase.